Conditions of entry

We all know that Christianity has a shrinking voice in the public square. Since the 60s sexual revolution, we went from quaint to irrelevant to the enemy in a short time. With the growing hostility to biblical Christianity, we are perceived by the media to be on the wrong side of history.

Tim Keller was right, for the first time, the modern secular West doesn’t see itself as a culture, it's just right and everyone else is wrong. In the public square, we live in what OS Guinness calls "The world of the ABC… Anything but Christianity."

As we think of great commission to make disciples of all nations, it's very easy to be intimidated, it's very easy to be overwhelmed, it's very easy to be pessimistic. This is the challenge as we seek to bring the gospel and plant churches in Australia. Will we be intimidated? Paul's sermon in Athens will speak to this fear.

The apostle Paul is on his 2nd missionary trip and he finds himself in Athens, this is not a Contiki tour of the Greek Islands.

He is waiting for his co-workers to join him and as he walked around the city, with a great history and proud culture, he is not just curious, he is deeply upset. Athens was a forest of idols.

why was Paul so distressed? Paul is jealous for God's glory, who will not share his glory with another. They have turned the living and speaking God of the universe into a lifeless image who needs to be carried. Oh, that we would be jealous for the nations to glorify God.

Before long Paul is invited to speak at Areopagus-Mars Hill, this is infotainment at its worst and best. These epicureans and stoics didn’t so much love truth but love new ideas. At one level Paul is a Jew talking to people from other cultures who worship other gods. He is in our world, a multicultural, multi-faith world. His God is clearly different from theirs. Paul begins respectfully and he begins where they are. 

They are extremely religious people but ultimately, they worship what they do not know. He starts where they are at. Paul notices an altar marked ‘to an unknown God’, they were having an each-way bet. He finds points of agreement to show that Jesus is Lord over every culture. We need to hear it for one reason because, in our post-modern secular Australia, we are told that we don't have any right to share the good news of Jesus with other people, that we do more harm than good.

John and Betty Sharpe, who worked amongst the Tegutil tribe, for 12 years in Indonesia, saw 75% of the tribe become followers of Jesus. Years later one American anthropologist said to the people…“People from my country USA think that what Betty and John did was wrong by bringing  Christianity and changing your culture.” One of the Tegutil men was very upset and said “Go back and tell your people what it was like before John and Betty brought Jesus, we lived in fear... fear of spirits... fear of ancestors” 

So, what do all humans have in common

1. One Creator

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. ~Acts 17:24-25 (NIV)

Paul begins by placing all humans under the one God who created the heavens and the earth. This was the opposite of the Epicureans and Stoics, they believed that everything is a random fluke, not unlike modern Australia. Paul draws a circle around all humanity, we have all been created by the one God, we don't create space for God in temples, he creates space for us here on earth. We don’t make him in our image, He made us in his image. Every nation, language, tribe, have one thing in

Common, we are all equally dependent on him, he is not dependent on us. Paul quotes their own poets in a hymn Zeus: "For in him we live and move and have our being." He is trying to show how the greek gods were spiritually bankrupt. These gods need us to serve them. Idolatry always places gods at the mercy of humans and not humans at the mercy of God. We don't carry God, he carries us.

2. One God and One Ancestor

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; ~Acts 17:26 (NIV)

Paul believes in a historic Adam. Go back far enough and we are all related. We are cousins by blood but we are brothers and sisters by the blood of Jesus. Adam is as much the granddaddy of the Aborigine as he is the granddaddy of the Turk. A proud Assyrian from MBM, who will remain nameless, did a DNA test, he was shocked to find that he is only 35% Middle Eastern. I’m 27% Arabic and he thought he was a thoroughbred, and he is, he is 100% a child of Adam.

When my friend was pregnant and people asked her ‘what are you hoping for?’ She gave the same answer, a human! We are all children of Adam. By the way, this is what makes racism both wrong and stupid, whether institutional or personal racism, constantly examine yourself to see how racism can lurk in your heart. Will you embrace the full humanity of every person? One God, one Ancestor.

3. One purpose in Providence

God is in charge of the rise, spread and fall of every people.

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. ~Acts 17:26 (NIV)

It was God who determined when the Athenian culture would flourish and when it would end, it was God who decided when the Russian Revolution would begin and when the Soviet Union would be dismantled. God is the reason why 1⁄4 of babies born are Chinese. It was God who decided who and how many migrants would come to this land.  God was behind you or your father or your grandfather or great, great, great, great grandfather coming to his country. Whether it was 50,000 years ago or 5 days ago. This is not to deny the injustice of land taken from first nations people. 

4. God One Purpose in Providence : To reach out for him

God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ~Acts 17:27 (NIV)

God's hand is found in every event of a cultures life with one reason, one purpose so that people can seek him and find him and be saved. All history is salvation history. God's hand is found in every step of a nations life so that they would be saved. I don't know how this works out in every detail but I know when God humbles humans and dislocates nations that people cry out to God.

Whether your grandparents were part of the 3 million who migrated from Europe after WW2 like my parents. In the 70s there were 120,000 Asian refugee migrants and 20,000 who escaped the Lebanese Civil War and tens of thousand of political asylum seekers from an oppressive dictatorship in South America.

In the 80s there were Chinese student refugees from the Tiananmen Square massacre.

In the 90s there were the Yugoslav Wars in the Balkans and more recently the Sudanese civil war and the Syrian crisis. God has brought the world to us so that they may reach out for him.

MBMs extended Vision and mission statement makes this clear.

God, in His sovereign control of history, has brought the nations into our backyard. We refuse to let this wonderful opportunity slip through our hands. God desires all people to be saved and so do we. Why do you think you are living in Australia? it's not just for a better life, it's for eternal life, and yes we can speak to every culture because we all share the one common judge.

5. One Judge

For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” ~Acts 17:31 (NIV)

God has appointed one man to be judge over all nations, there are no cultural favourites. Everybody will have to give an account before this judge, the Lord Jesus. No one gets in because they think to themselves: "I’m Australian Anglican" or "Italian Catholic" or "American Baptist" or "Chinese Buddhist" or "African animist" or "Indian Hindu". Every human on this earth will stand before one Judge and his name is Jesus Christ king of kings. That we have not already been judged is Gods mercy, He has overlooked our rebellion so far

In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. ~Acts 17:30 (NIV) 

6. One command, to repent

There is one command for all people everywhere, turn from idols and trust in Lord Jesus. Repentance is not just remorse, you can be sorry for sins you never stop doing, repentance is not just reform. Lots of alcoholics have said 'no' to the bottle and not 'yes' to Jesus, repentance is about turning from my sin to Jesus. From a life run by me to a life run by Jesus. Repentance is about making Jesus the main character of your life. Aligning my view of the world with Jesus'. The plea, "But I was brought up this way" will not stand on the day of judgment. We must not fall into the trap of thinking that we are victims of our culture or family.

This God commands all people everywhere to repent, all nations, all ages, all classes, all styles, all personalities, all sexual orientations, all religions, all generations, to repent. You and I are not at the mercy of our upbringing. What we need to be clear in our head is this 

7. One Proof for all people

There is no excuse now.

For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” ~Acts 17:31 (NIV)

As far as God is concerned the resurrection of Jesus is enough proof for everybody to become a Christian.

Bertrand Russell, a famous British atheist philosopher, was asked “Bertrand what would you say to God on judgment day if Christianity proved to be true?" He said, "You didn’t give me enough evidence." But as far as God is concerned the resurrection of Jesus is enough proof for all people to repent. For every Australian in every state or territory regardless of who they are or where they come from: a Kenyan grandmother, a Columbian farmer, a Thai nurse or a Portuguese chef.

God commands all people everywhere to repent. No one is born a Christian, God has no grandchild. Kids and teenagers, you need to repent for yourselves.

The result of Paul's talks was that some became disciples while others laughed. Which is it to be for you? Will you be a follower of Christ or will you laugh in the face of this evidence? The tendency today is to focus on the cultural difference but God tells us we have far more in common. The one God made all of us from one man and we will stand before one judge who was raised from death and issued one command. 

That is why when God speaks to Athenians 2000 years ago before microphones, microchips, microwaves. He speaks as much to you and me. We will all stand before the one judge and the evidence for the resurrection is sufficient proof. There is no "us and them" where it counts, it's just us. Remember it's God who commands not you. So yes gently, respectfully, winsomely, share this message.

And today God commands you to repent and he commands your loved ones to repent.

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